SpaceX won't launch next private astronaut crew for Axiom Space in early May after all

Four private Axiom Space Ax-2 astronauts post inside a space station mockup
The four private astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission will fly to the International Space Station on a SpaceX capsule. They are: from left, pilot John Shoffner; mission specialist Rayyanah Barnawi; commander Peggy Whitson; and mission specialist Ali Alqarni. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

The second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) won't launch in the next few days after all.

The Houston-based company Axiom Space had been targeting May 8 for the launch of its Ax-2 mission, which will send four people to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule for a roughly 10-day stay.

But Axiom, SpaceX and NASA (which, as a major ISS partner, must approve such missions) have nixed that plan, pushing the liftoff into the nebulous future.

"We are no longer targeting opportunities in early May," NASA officials wrote in an update on Wednesday (May 3). "More information on the updated target launch date will be shared soon."

The brief update did not provide a reason for the delay.

Related: Photos of the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station

Ax-2 will be the second crewed mission operated by Axiom Space, which plans to build its own space station in low Earth orbit later in the 2020s.

The company's first flight, Ax-1, sent four private astronauts to the International Space Station for more than two weeks in April 2022. That mission was commanded by Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut in the employ of Axiom Space.

Ax-2 will be led by Axiom's Peggy Whitson, who spent a total of 665 days in space as a NASA astronaut, more than any other American or any other woman. (NASA has mandated that all private crewed missions to the ISS be led by a former agency spaceflyer.)

The other three Ax-2 crewmates are investor John Shoffner, a paying customer who will serve as Ax-2's pilot, and Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, members of the first Saudi Arabian astronaut class, both of whom will serve as mission specialists.

Ax-2 will make Barnawi the first Saudi woman to reach space. She and AlQarni will also become the first people from the kingdom to travel to the ISS. 

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.